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Only These Kinds of People Will Buy Nomination Forms for N100m by Farooq A. Kperogi

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There is an unexampled swarming of the presidential nomination arena by a motley crowd of wannabes. One argument for this is that Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo have been such dreadful catastrophes as “president” and “vice president” that all that anyone who succeeds them has to do to impress Nigerians is to just be marginally better than they are, which doesn’t take a lot. I’ll come back to this point later.

Well, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) increased its presidential nomination fees to N100 million (up from N45 million in 2019 and N27.5 million in 2015), people thought it would thin out the crowd of contestants. But it appears to be doing the opposite. Both the wheat and the chaff—mostly the chaff—now litter the presidential nomination field.

So, what kinds of people would pay a non-refundable fee of N100 million just for a chance to run for the primary election of a political party in which victory isn’t guaranteed, in which a snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell than them winning? I can identify at least four kinds of people.

The first are overly bullish political investors. These are people who see politics as an investment and who are unrealistically overconfident that their investment will yield bountiful returns. For them, political office isn’t an opportunity for service; it’s a doorway to immense personal enrichment.

Many of the presidential wannabes in the major political parties don’t expect to win their party’s nomination. They are simply ploughing back some of the money they stole from the government into long-shot presidential contests as down payments for ministerial positions or other “juicy” appointments from whoever emerges as the president in their political party.

Even if their party doesn’t win the presidential election, nothing is lost because the money didn’t come from their hard work. Plus, politicians are a special breed of hopeless optimists. They see victory even in the menacing jaws of defeat.

This is the logical graduation of a new kind of elite corruption that the Buhari regime birthed in the last few years. No appointment is now merit-driven. From ministerial appointments down to janitorial personnel in the federal civil service, everything is lubricated by bribes.

In a December 17, 2019, article titled “Ministership for Sale: Up to N2.5b Per Slot,” I disclosed that “Four different, dependable, and independent sources who don’t know each other but who’re close to the corridors of power were eerily united in telling me that except for a few ministerial nominations (notably those of Adamu Adamu, Ali Isa Pantami, Mohammed Musa Bello, Raji Fashola whom Buhari himself personally penciled— and those that were conceded to Tinubu) every other post was literally auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

That’s why there are no apolitical “technocrats” in the Buhari cabinet like there used to be in previous administrations. No honest, hardworking, and self-respecting professional would leave their day job and give financial inducement to a cabal of Aso Rock thieves just to be appointed a minister.

Since Buhari and Osinbajo have officially made governance a raucous, in-your-face, no-consequence stealing bazaar, people understand the presidential nomination fees as deposits for a chance to steal with impunity from 2023 onwards. So, it’s a grand political pay-to-play scam.

The second kinds of people who would pay a N100 million nomination fee without seeing it as an investment from which they’ll reap hefty rewards later are rich drug addicts who are trapped in a state of hyper-arousal

dissociation, who live in a drugged and drunken alternate universe.

Who knows if that is why Buba Marwa, the chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA,) wrote to APC on April 27 asking to be allowed to conduct mandatory drug tests on the plethora of presidential aspirants that are crowding the party’s platform?

Premium Times reported Marwa to have said that he would send a similar letter to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and to other political parties because “Nigeria requires a mentally stable set of leaders to pilot its affairs.”

Like the rest of us, the NDLEA boss must have reasoned that only drug-induced megalomania can inspire some of these aspirants to think they can be president of a complex country like Nigeria that Buhari and Osinbajo have almost destroyed beyond recognition.

I can bet my bottom dollar that several of these delusional presidential wannabes, whom we all know, will fail a drug test, which is why the idea of a drug test will die a natural death.

The third kind of people who will shell out N100 million to buy a presidential nomination form without expectation of dubious rewards in the future are mentally unhinged individuals with lots of stolen money to throw away.

Many of them are obviously psychotic. Psychosis is defined as a “severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted.” For example, anyone who genuinely believes that God spoke to him and urged him to run for office is demonstrably psychotic.

I expect the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), in conjunction with the Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria (APNON), to ask to be allowed to conduct mental health examinations on presidential aspirants. It would be a valid and justified request because there are many undiagnosed psychiatric patients running for office right now.

The fourth group of people who would purchase a N100 million nomination form even if they are political nonentities are political gamblers, that is, corruptly rich, recklessly wasteful risk takers who don’t fear financial loss because they are animated by a desperate hope for gain or just a frisson of excitement.

Of course, my list doesn’t include people who, because of their networks, political pedigree, proximity to power, etc. are within striking distance of winning their party’s nomination and possibly winning the national election. But among such people are easy glory seekers who want to take advantage of the Buhari/Osinbajo unprecedented failure to shine.

As I pointed out in a February 3, 2018, column titled “How Buhari Has Lowered the Bar of Governance,” it would take the littlest of efforts for Buhari’s successor to impress Nigerians because the Buhari regime went from lowering the bar of governance to throwing the entire bar away.

So, because it took Buhari and Osinbajo six months (actually eight months if you consider that they were elected two months before they were inaugurated) to constitute a familiar, predictable cast of underwhelming characters as ministers, any administration that appoints ministers in the first month of being in power would be celebrated.

Because Buhari is habitually unconcerned and indifferent in the face of heartrending national tragedies, any president who shows just a little bit of emotion through sympathy visits and national broadcasts would win hearts and minds.

Because Buhari never fires anyone who underperforms, any president that fires incompetent people, especially in the security sector, would be praised as proactive and sensitive.

Governing boards of government agencies are the engines of governance. It took Buhari and Osinbajo nearly three years to constitute governing board members, which was why I characterized their administration as an example of “ungovernance.” Even when they did, they appointed dead people and people who weren’t consulted before their appointments.

Any president who appoints members of governing boards of government agencies in the first few months of being in power would be hailed as a miracle worker in governance.

These are just a few examples. But this is really distressing because there is much more at stake in the task of governing Nigeria than just transcending Buhari’s incompetence and mediocrity.

Strictly Personal

Direct or indirect primaries: The uniting factor is moneybag politics by Afe Babalola

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THE Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) provides for the system of nomination of candidates by political par ties through primary elections ahead of presidential, state governorship, and legislative houses elections. Section 84(1) of the Electoral Act provides that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission. Subsection 2 provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

Direct primaries, as described in subsection 4 of the Act, connotes that the members of the political party will be given equal opportunity to vote for a party member of their choice as the nominated candidate of the party. It involves the participation of all registered members of a party in the selection of the party’s candidates. Indirect primaries, on the other hand, is a system whereby members of the political party democratically elect delegates at the party’s congress and, in turn, the delegates elect the party’s candidates on behalf of the members of the political party. Sections 5-8 of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) generally stipulates the procedure for the conduct of indirect primaries in Nigeria.

The third category, and perhaps the least commonly adopt ed, is the system of consensus candidacy whereby all aspirants in the political party will voluntarily and expressly withdraw from the primaries and endorse a single candidate; and where there is no such express withdrawal, the political party will mandatorily proceed to conduct direct or indirect primaries. Section 9 of the Act provides as follows: 9 (a) A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate; (b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions. (c) A Special Convention or nomination Congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.

Over the years, the choice of whether a party should adopt direct or indirect primaries has been the subject of debate by political pundits, commentators, and aspirants. The system of indirect primaries which most political parties adopt has been criticized for being easier to manipulate by party lead ers, and on their part, the delegates are expected to align with the party leadership. Another inherent defect in the conduct of indirect primaries includes some instances of the dubious manner of appointment of delegates. For instance, where a sitting Governor or President’s political appointees are made the party’s delegates, it is not in doubt that their nominations will ultimately favour their appointor’s political interest. Be sides, it is not uncommon to find dissimilar delegates’ selection at party congresses, conventions and primaries. On the other hand, the criticism of direct primaries is that it is a lot more expensive to operate and requires much more planning and organization. It is also more easily manipulated. For in stance, a strong contender in a political party can sponsor the members of his own political party to purchase membership cards of the opposition party en masse in order for such members to deliberately vote for a weaker candidate in the said opposition party to win the primaries, thereby giving him an edge in the general elections.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the conduct of direct and indirect primaries, there however exists no real difference because of the association of Nigerian politics with godfatherism and moneybag politics. Though it is easier to bribe fewer delegates to support a faction of the party as op posed to the reduced propensity to tilt the votes of all members of the political party to one candidate if direct primaries were held, it still does not change the fact that the underlying factor is the ability of a candidate to sway the few delegates, or the larger party members, with money.

In an interview published in the Punch newspaper on 19th June 2022, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party rep resenting the Ilaje/Ese Federal Constituency stated the im pact of money on politics. He reportedly said: “Except some are lying, it is real. Our politics is monetised. The process is monetised. Some will just come and tell you that they never pay money. They paid money. We paid money to delegates. There is no way you can survive that hurricane without effectively and efficiently releasing resources for those people (delegates). Whether you have served them for seven years and you have been their perpetual or perennial friend, it is not going to count. You just have to do the needful at that point. Again, if you don’t do it, they will not vote for you. This is because it is not just one aspirant or candidate that is doing that; it is a system. You will give what the system is asking for. There is a stimulus that the system is pumping and which the electorate will have to react to. It is not the fault of those who are currently in power or those that are seeking to come to power, it is not their fault… If you are the best (among the aspirants), you will pay; if you are the worst, you will still pay. It is just a systemic thing. Those who eventually won, it is still the same. In my area, we had three very strong contenders. We paid equally and people made their choice on who they wanted. The three people (aspirants) paid equal amounts of money. They (delegates) collected money from the three of us and made their choice on who they wanted.”

The bold admission by the honourable member of the House of Representatives excerpted above is the reality of the Nigerian political climate today. The influence of moneybags in Nigerian politics continues to hold sway in dampening the hopes of the nation in achieving true democracy. After all, the whole idea of democracy is the free will of the people in electing their political leaders, and where such “free will” is manipulated through the influence of political juggernauts, the country is further pulled away from the attainment of the best democratic policies. It accounts for the corruption and violence which have characterized many elections in Nigeria. On the day of the election, the politician who owes his nomi nation to his huge investments will naturally seek a win by any possible means. Where his reliance is placed on a political godfather, he can count on his godfather’s ability to deploy enormous wealth in a bid to corrupt electoral officials and the electorates and where these fail, violence will be deployed to bring about the desired result.

Consequently, the politician who wins an election based only upon the backing of his political godfather will feel no ob ligation to the electorate who in any event might have been disenfranchised in the whole scheme of events. He will there fore devote the entirety of his tenure of office to the promotion and satisfaction of himself, his cronies, and his godfather. There is an unhealthy synergy between godfatherism, money bag politics, and poverty. It is the entire citizenry who suffers the effect of political office holder’s obligation to recoup his investments and/or satisfy the whims of his godfather who, more often than not, are the actual persons in power.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN, OFR, CON, LL.D (Lond.)

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Strictly Personal

Genuine politicians must die by Kenneth Amaeshi

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I often one wonder why people go into politics in Nigeria, because the challenges of the country are massive. Poor health systems. Low quality education. High youth unemployment and low skills. Hunger, poverty, and famine. Weak infrastructure and institutions. In addition, the politics appears dirty and bitter.

The usual but superficial reason people often offer is that they are keen to serve. If the lure of politics is to serve others, why would one subject oneself through the tortuous process of democratic elections in order to serve? Sleepless nights. Odd meetings. Very strange companies. Painful compromises.

A cynical view might suggest that whether a career in politics is pursued to serve or lord it over others, it is simply a quest for power. Of course, it is human and natural to seek dominion over others. But even at that, what then is the purpose of power and is politics the only means to exercise such powers?

Another view is that politics is simply business – in the sense that politicians financially invest in it and expect worthwhile returns on their investments. In such contexts, they may use money to influence votes. When politicians make such investments, they obviously expect some gains, and the higher the risks, the more the expected returns. However, politicians come in various shades.

Some politicians do not pretend about money politics. It is as clear as it can be. It is what it is – a very transactional engagement. It is all about their self-interests. This understanding makes it easy to attract like minds and to agree on expectations and outcomes. They often portray and pride themselves as the real masters of politics. Many people tend to agree with them, and they are unashamedly transparent about their strategies and aspirations. That’s how it is done. Anything short of this is naivety.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Other politicians prefer not to be very overt about their crude intentions and strategies. They rather mask them in some nebulous and grandiose cloaks – often packaged as a form of progressivism and intellectualism. However, beneath this garb of elegance and decency is a constantly warped and treacherous display of self-interest and greed packaged and sold as enlightenment. The main difference between the two categories is their strategies. While the former is overt, the latter is covert. Nonetheless, their goals are the same.

A third group is made up of politicians who are very idealistic and puritan in their approach. They have something to offer and truly want to serve, but they either do not understand the rules of the market for votes or they think they can change things by ignoring the rules and in most cases swimming against them. However, they hardly win elections because they rarely make any financial investments in the business of politics. As much as some voters may like what they represent, they rarely have sufficient incentives to patronize the politicians in this category. In the end, the politicians become cases of good products but unrealized potentials.

Unfortunately, the business of politics and pretentious service leadership are the bane of democracy and good governance in many countries. Sadly, too, they are often normalized and taken for granted. This normalization and taken-for-grantedness could be as a result of helplessness – because people – i.e., the electorate – do not know how to unravel and dismantle them.

However, no matter how they disguise, they can be unmasked effectively. In Nigeria, for example, where the elections season is simultaneously booming and looming, genuine politicians can be assessed by their preparedness to sacrifice and die for the good of Nigeria. Given where the country is today, especially with her challenges, it only needs politicians who are in it, not for their own sake, but for the growth and development of the country – i.e., politicians who are both competent and ethical. Anything short of this is simply an entrenchment of the status quo, which has not done the country any good.

Nigeria needs genuine political leaders who can literally take the proverbial bull by the horns. This will entail a lot of discomfort, political risks, sacrifices and even death. As scary as it may sound, genuine politicians are rarely deterred by it.

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

But how do we identify genuine politicians, given the confusion and obfuscation of personalities and personae in the system? One way to decipher genuine politicians is to look at their antecedents and ask some very pertinent questions. What have they achieved outside politics? What comforts and luxuries are they leaving or setting aside to serve? What sacrifices are they willing to make and or are making? Are they willing to die for Nigeria to thrive? As much as these questions may sound unrealistic, politicians who fit this mode are truly the sort of politicians Nigeria needs now.

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, offered an excellent idea of what genuine political leadership looks like in practice when he said:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” (emphasis, mine).

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

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